Despite its best efforts to formulate a plan to bring students back into the classroom for the start of the 2020-21 school year, School District 64 must shift away from its original reopening plans, starting the year with full remote learning for all students. The decision was announced by Superintendent Eric Olson on Aug. 10 in a letter to staff, parents and the community.
Superintendent Olson said the decision to begin with remote learning was made with some reluctance.
"However, I also had to acknowledge concerns expressed by both staff and parents about our ability to safely open schools and educate students with COVID-19 dictating so many changes to instructional practices and school routines," he wrote to parents.
District 64 will continue to work towards starting in-person instruction for those who are interested, beginning with an assessment throughout the month of September to determine if it can begin the in-person hybrid option in early October for the second half of the first trimester.
Since COVID-19 first appeared earlier this year, the District 64 team been discussing how it can educate students in-person during the pandemic, knowing that children benefit from the connections with their teachers and other staff, as well as their peers. Unfortunately the pandemic continues to dictate the response. COVID-19 positivity rates have continued to rise in Illinois since flattening in June. The safety and health of students, staff, and their families has remained the number one priority throughout the planning process.
The District continues to adhere to the guidelines given to us by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Public Health. On July 27, the District team presented a plan to the community that included both a hybrid and a remote learning option for parents. In a subsequent survey to parents, 65% chose hybrid to start the year, 25% chose remote learning, and 10% did not make a choice.
This summer, the team worked on enhancing its Remote Learning program so that if students had to or chose to learn remotely, they would have access to the same strong academic program and social-emotional support. Now District officials will put that plan into place as they prepare to move students back to in-class learning when it can be done safely.
“Starting the school year in full remote learning allows us to continue preparing as thoughtfully and carefully as possible for what we want to be a safe reopening of our schools for in-person learning,” Olson wrote. “We believe that a full remote start will also allow us to implement new safety protocols, refine staffing needs, and continue monitoring health data before welcoming students who elected to return to school in-person.”